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Cable Dyeing 


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Cable Dyeing 

Written By: Sean Michael Ragan 


Gloves (1 pair) 

Lighter fluid (4 oz.) 

Multimeter or Continuity Tester (1) 

PVC Stain (4 oz.) 

Purple primer is available from the 
hardware store, or you can make your 
own custom stain using our earlier guide 
on the subject. 

Paper towels (1 roll) 

Plastic sheet (6 sq. ft.) 

Towel (3 sq. ft.) 

Tray (1) 

e.g. cookie sheet. 


Cord or cable (1) 


If you want an extension cord, power cord, or other plastic-insulated cable in an unusual 
color, and you can find one in white, there's a good chance you can dye it to suit your 
preference using this technique. 

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Cable Dyeing 

Turns out many cables are sheathed with PVC, and will take the same oil-based stains as 
PVC pipe. If you want a purple cord, for instance, you can just treat a white PVC cord with 
purple primer. If you want some other color, it is easy to prepare your own custom stains 
from clear PVC cleaner and concentrated solvent dyes. 

• Not all plastic insulation will take 
this dye. Test a small piece of the 
insulation you want to stain before 
trying to do a whole cable. 

• You can perform this test using 
hardware-store purple primer. If the 
material will take a purple primer 
stain, this technique will work. 

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Cable Dyeing 

• Observe all safety warnings 
on the can of PVC cleaner 


or primer that holds your stain. 
Work in a well-ventilated area, 
away from open flame, and protect 
your skin with nitrile gloves. 

Lay a plastic garbage bag, painter's 
dropcloth, or other plastic sheeting 
over your bench top. 

Set a metal tray on top of the 
plastic sheet. I use an old 
aluminum cookie sheet measuring 

Put two or three layers of paper 
towel on top of the metal tray. 

To one side, set a folded shopcloth, 
rag, or towel that you don't mind 
getting grubby. This will couch the 
cord while it's drying. 

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Cable Dyeing 

• Apply the stain to the cord, directly from the can, using the applicator built into the cap. Try 
to avoid letting it drip or pool on the cable itself. 

• The stain dries very quickly. As each section of the cord dries, feed it to the side, onto the 
towel, and move on to the next section, 

• Don't worry about getting stain on the metal prongs of the plug. The metal will not 
take the stain, and any that dries there is easy to clean off. See below. 

Leave the cable undisturbed on the 
towel for at least half an hour, 
which should be more than enough 
time for the stain to thoroughly dry. 

The plastic child-safety clip 
on my extension cord was 
made of some different kind of 
plastic, that did not take the stain, 
so I just clipped it off with a pair of 

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Cable Dyeing 

For touch-up work, the applicator should be just slightly dampened with stain. 

Dip the applicator in the stain and daub it first against the inside of the can, and then at 
least once on a paper towel. 

Smooth over any light spots or splotches using the damp applicator. It may take a few 
strokes before the plastic softens and the color begins to even out. 

• Plug prongs or other metal parts will not take the stain, and stray dye can be wiped off 
using a paper towel moistened with lighter fluid. 

• Alternately, you can just wash metal parts in a stream of lighter fluid from the bottle. A 
small amount of dye may wash from adjacent plastic, but it should not be enough to 
noticeably affect the color. 

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Cable Dyeing 

• Although it is unlikely that 
this technique will 
significantly affect the integrity of 
the insulation, you should err on 
the side of caution and carefully 
test the cable before using it. 

• Set your multimeter to check 
continuity-most of them beep to 
indicate a closed circuit. 

• Connect one probe to one contact 
at one end of the cable. 

• Touch the other probe to the 
contacts at the other end of the 
cable and verify that there are no 

When the stain is dry, it is quite clean. PVC stained using this technique will pass a "white glove 
test" and will not transfer color, under normal conditions, to materials that come in contact with 

If you're feeling really adventurous, you might also try setting a coil in the cable before staining 

At some point I hope to experiment with spray application of these stains. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -03 1 2:28:21 AM. 

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